How to Make Economical Intruder Shanks

Intruders seem to be quite THE thing nowadays when it comes to steelhead fly fishing. The components of intruders can be quite expensive since the companies on the forefront of the market tend to be few and far between with brands like OPST, Hareline Dubbin, and Montana Fly Company just to name a few. Of the components used in the construction of an intruder, there is the shank, wire loop, short shanked hook (that’s the point of an intruder right?- for the fish to have less leverage), weight (typically in the form of dumbell eyes or cone head), and fibrous materials used to ensue a buggy look. While you can just as well raise chickens and ducks like I do, I will be focusing on the production of shanks- with the possibility of a future SBS tutorial on how to forge traditional salmon irons from 1080 high carbon steel wire for those interested in the classic shanked hook fly patterns. Anyway, lets get started!

So to start off, let’s talk about materials and tools needed to safely and accurately shape wire. Most households have these 4 important tools- needlenose pliers, candle or torch, and ball point pen, and metric ruler. Now you might be asking- ” why metric?”, well it is easier to measure small lengths without having to convert to fractions and decimals and sig figs and derivatives and integrals and- oooh oops not talking about calculus here, just measuring small lengths of wire easily. And oh top of that, most companies measure their shanks in mm’s so it will be easy to copy your favorite shank size to your homemade ones. ANYWAYS, on top of the household tools, you will need to have somewhere in the range of .044″ stainless wire- often used in the making of salmon spinners and other conventional rod gizmos, and a wire former tool. This wire can be found at most large tackle shops and runs about $10 for a nice roll of it. ” wire former tool” means anything from jewelry making pliers to a fancy boggs or cabelas hagen wire former. I have both a cast iron cabelas wire former that was given to me by my uncle as well as a boggs tackle maker that I bought way back when I was first venturing into fishing. I don’t really need two so if you interested in one, drop me a comment… but that’s beside the point. Make do with what you have and they will turn out just fine. Procedure: Start by cutting off 55mm of wire with a pair of piers. Next, mark on one end a small line at 15mm. This tick mark should be done with a ball point pen just so a more consistent length can be attained when it comes time to bend the wire. Next, place the wire in the former- in between the stationary pin and the dynamic pin with the mark juxtaposed directly in between them. Revolve the dynamic pin until it can be pushed no farther. Flip the wire so that the unbent side of the wire is against the dynamic pin and finish the eye. At this point, you could consider yourself done, but I like to take it one step further and remove the spring in the tag end using a little heat. Light a standard candle and place the tag end as well as the long shank in the juxtaposed grooves in the pliers so that they are perfectly parallel. Simply place the eye of the shank at the very tip of the lit flame and wait for the wire to get cherry red. Once it has been completely heated, remove the shank from the pliers and start again. Make sure to let the shanks cool as they will be very hot! Now that you now the basics, you can try doing other modifications such as having two eyes ( to ensure a tighter grab from the jaws of your vise) and bent eyes. Constructing two eyes requires more wire and is much trickier to get no gap inbetween the tag ends. Bent eyes simply require two sets of pliers and a little heat. Apart from that, you can even go as far as tapering and powder coating but they really aren’t neccesary. The last key thing you should be aware of are the burs created when cutting the wire. It wouldn’t be the first time I have sliced my tying thread in half just because I didn’t file down the ends a little. You can definetly play around with the proportions but I found I like the 15mm tag end and 30mm shank length. Simply subract about 10mm of wire for the eye, and 15mm for the tag end, and then determine how long you want the shank to, and you will know how long to cut the wire. An equation would be something like this  Wire Length= Tag (15mm+ Eye(10mm)+ Desired Shank Length (30mm in this case). Anyways, thanks for reading this quick little how to! Let me know how they work or if there any improvements that could be made to make it a better shank. Drop me an email or comment and I’ll try to respond as soon as possible. This coming week, I will be getting an order of high carbon steel and so I will start another post on the forging of salmon irons for those interested in this very little-known subject. Until next time, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year! Tight lines… Erick Alvarez 12/29/17

Playing with lighting is always fun to do. in the shot, I positioned my lamp directly down. It gives a good representation of the entire fly and it’s profile.
Here is the same fly with a different angle of lighting. This one came from slightly behind the fly and what I really like about it is the way it establishes the shoulders that are hidden by the ostrich fibers.
How to Make Economical Intruder Shanks